M. Ward has produced a lot of excellent music over the years, as a solo artist, with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him, and with members of My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes as Monsters of Folk. Some heritage eh? He consequently dives into More Rain with confidence, producing a strong suite of uptempo songs. On Bella Union.
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M. Ward occasionally gets to produce his own melancholy as opposed to others’, and ‘More Rain’ is one such moment. Using his usual delightful ironic mix of upbeat, sweetly harmonised major-key pop tunes and devastated lyrics, he gets up in your lifeworld and makes you feel giddy with The Emotions. “Time Won’t Wait Up” is the first sign of signature Ward: a tune almost exclusively written about loneliness for the lonely, it twinkles with pantomimic piano, Grease guitar chords and silly backing vocals -- all guided by a voice reminiscent of Sam Beam’s and a real lovelorn sadness.
There’s something strangely nice about Ward’s knowingly sombre winks. “Confession” begins on a riff toned like the Smiths before bouncing a bit more like one of Twerps’, while the lyrics sing with the inevitable grumpiness of Stephin Merritt (“anyone got a lift they need loading?”, he asks, and then “anybody miss the train of love at the station?”, with resigned pragmatism). It’s in these more self-aware moments that Ward’s music really sings -- as it gets more serene and serious, a la the Cherry Ghost schmaltz of “I’m Listening”, the moment starts to fade, though Ward’s use of Beach Boys harmonies and surfy guitar seems like an acknowledgment of this, a way of making indie pop less about “authenticity” and more about vibe.
On “You’re So Good To Me” Ward nods to his production roles by stifling the song in what sounds like a tinny radio before bursting through into the corporeal world with full-bodied guitar strums. Once more it contributes to the record’s playful attitude, where cliches feel both mocked and savoured ("you're my baby... don't mean maybe!", of course). Listening to this tune you’d think Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel had been in the Monsters of Folk. A nice dream.
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